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Article: The classification of the Foraminifera – a review of historical and philosophical perspectives

Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 33
Part: 3
Publication Date: August 1990
Page(s): 503 528
Author(s): John R. Haynes
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How to Cite

HAYNES, J. R. 1990. The classification of the Foraminifera – a review of historical and philosophical perspectives. Palaeontology33, 3, 503–528.

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The Palaeontological Association (Free Access)


A historical review of the classification of Foraminifera reveals that the latest by Loeblich and Tappan is in the central tradition, leading from the work of the early English School, in which it is attempted to relate test composition and fine structure to physiology in formulating a sound basis for distinction of suprageneric rank. Although the early English School first distinguished homologous from analogous structures, their view that Foraminifera constituted a primitive, plastic group has inhibited biological and stratigraphical work, and distorted classification down to the present. The search for a single 'key' to turn the problem has also led to swings of fashion and, using Brady's metaphor, to 'cutting rather than untying the Gordian Knot'. Recent classifications are shown to retain considerable artificial elements. Attempts to substitute numerical taxonomy or cladistics for 'intuitive' taxonomy are misguided. Principles to assist the way forward are given.
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